Wednesday, December 21, 2016

4 Things I've Learned from 2016 (and from a lifetime of experiences)

Looking back over my life, my good and bad choices, good and bad outcomes, adventures and mis-adventures, I came up with these ideas during this past week. I haven't mastered all of these concepts yet, as those who know me best could tell you. 

I hesitated about sharing this, because it's not meant as a guidebook for everyone. I am simply sharing. Maybe someone with a different personality might be learning very different things in their life. 

Also, sometimes I might seem to be saying one thing and then seem to be saying something different. You see, I believe in nuance and balance. 

And, finally, I'm not sharing to tell anyone else how to live their life. I'm sharing that maybe someone might relate with one little thing or another. "Aha, I feel that way too," and "No, I don't agree with that," but, "Yes, I get that." You know. Just enjoy. 

"I don't have to run away nor do I have to run things"

I don't have to run away from the unpleasant or imperfect, except when there is a compelling reason. Sometimes a change is absolutely necessary or strongly advisable, but certainly not always.

Also, it isn't necessary, or even possible, to "fix" everything, whether for myself, my loved ones, or others. There will always be problems. There will always be pain. I can be compassionate and empathetic, and contribute my heart and my ears, and sometimes my voice, and sometimes my hands, but without expecting a perfect world.

I can try to make things run well in my own affairs, but I need to accept less than perfection, even in my own life. And beyond that, the concept of "you can do great things" (encouraged so much in the twentieth century) may have been overrated. Mother Teresa said to do little things with great love, and St. Therese said something similar. Most people who have done great things in the eyes of the world or of the Church often just did - day after day - what to them were small things.

"I don't have to chase adventure and excitement"

Simple everyday things can bring their own joys, a person smiling, clouds, writing, or reading a book.

Experiences don't have to be new and different in order to be fun or interesting. Routines and repeat experiences can be warm and comforting in their very familiarity; and little things can be interesting, a new library book, a new acquaintance, perhaps a new song, or someone I haven't heard singing an old song.

"I don't always have to overcome obstacles and fears."

If it's not in my gift zone, or it feels dangerous, or it seems like 'too much', I can say no to an idea.

There's a difference between stepping out of my comfort zone to do something that is new or difficult for me and stepping out of my gift zone to do something I don't have the skill or aptitude to do reasonably well.

I can sometimes make a choice that is less stressful than another choice. If someone asks me to do something that "feels wrong" for me, I have the right to say no without them understanding why. 

I am entitled to put my needs ahead of someone else's desires or even their perceived needs if they are not my responsibility. But, I want to find more ways to help at least some of those who have a genuine need, ways that fit with both my ability to help or encourage them, as well as what they feel is best for themselves.


I can keep or acquire more of what I use more often or love, and keep less of what I am less interested in.

What do we need for the activities we love? For me, the activities I am most interested in at this time in my life are travel (local, as well as the occasional long distance trip to see family and close friends); reading and writing; recycle sewing; and I hope to learn embroidery. I also like doing simple but wholesome cooking; and I hope to learn container gardening. 

I really enjoy observing nature, and I have found that I can do that nearly anywhere that I can be outdoors or at a window, even just by looking at the ever-changing sky. 

What do you like best? What have you learned in your life? 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Grace by Natashia Deón - A Book Review

I will never be the same. That's what popped into my head when I finished reading this award-winning, best-selling book.

It's genius. To me, it ranks with the writings of Dickens and Rowling for characterizations and surprises, and for following the lives of multiple people.

The book, Grace, is set before, during, and after the Civil War, not on battlefields but in the lives of the people, primarily a slave girl and her family, and those who come into their lives. The characters are complex, nuanced individuals.  

For those considering what ages might be appropriate for reading the book, just know that there are mature topics throughout, such as prostitution and gambling, murder and rape.

For me, the themes of character growth, love, and heroism counterbalanced the look into the dark side of humanity, and left me feeling satisfied as I finished the story. 

Grace by Natashia Deon

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Why I might not go back to using FB, at least in the same way I was using it before

Fake News Stories Abound, Along with Untimely Stories
Have you seen articles saying that many news stories passed along on Facebook are fake news? To quote from the old TV show, Get Smart, "I knew that, 99". I'm sure you knew it too. But did you know there are lots and lots of them?  And apparently, they are aimed at "both sides" (or all sides) of any issue. Some of the authors or sites want to persuade you; some just want to get money from people clicking through.

Then there are the articles and memes that may have been relevant when they were first posted, two years ago or ten years ago, but no one mentions (or perhaps notices) that this particular story is re-circulating, that's it's not about a current event.

Gaslighting Happens
The term "gaslighting" originated with an old movie in which the husband progressively makes his wife think she's losing touch with reality. One of the ways he does this is to turn on the gaslights in the attic so that the gaslights will dim in the main part of the house. When she comments that the lights are dim, he says that it's her imagination. (He married her for her inheritance, and wanted to get her out of the picture. I haven't seen the movie, but, spoiler alert: I understand it turns out well.).

The term has since been used for the kind of victim abuse where someone tries to make you think you're confused for their own purposes, most often in romantic and other types of relationships where you spend a lot of time with someone or work with them. But it has also been used to refer to someone minimizing your experiences or feelings. That person may not be intentionally trying to "gaslight" you. But intention and affect don't always go hand in hand.

How many times on Facebook do we hear someone say (or a meme or an article that says or implies), "People who…" and occasionally, we have to gulp and realize that although they probably didn't specifically mean me (at least not intentionally), I'm actually in that "people who" group. I might be in a group that someone says is going to hell. Or I'm in that group that someone says ought to dress nicer. Maybe we're in that group that some think should never be sad or depressed.

Facebook is so open, with so many people, that we don't think about each person who is reading. And yes, if we worry about never hurting anyone's feelings, it makes it hard to even say anything, and I'm sure I've done it myself at times. I'm not trying to make anyone so sensitive that they cannot participate. I'm just saying this is one of four reasons that I need to stay dialed back for a while.

Everyone and Everything is Good or Evil, or So Some of it Seems
We often tend to divide ourselves by right and left, conservative and liberal. Good and bad.  Woe to me if I don't fit into a box. (And I don't).  

Someone writes, "Those people - on the other side - are so mean; and they criticize us when we just want to do the right thing. We don't call them names. Why do (fill in the blank with people of one conviction or another) always have to be ugly?"…or so sensitive…whatever may be the word of the day.

How many of us have heard something like this said of the people of some "group" or another that our lovely, kind family member or friend belongs to, and cringed? How many times have we thought, "But my family member or friend doesn't say ugly things"?

Tendency to Facebook Addiction
I thought I was addicted to Facebook, like food, but that I also couldn't live without it, like food. So I stayed. I thought as someone who studied journalism, I could make a difference, so I stayed. But finally I decided it was time for a break.

Well, truly, much good has come of Facebook for me. I have made absolutely fantastic friends, as well as connected better, or re-connected, with old friends. And in that way, I miss it...miss you all.

The problem is that when I go to Facebook because I feel lonely, I get depressed by the judgments. When I stay because it's easy and I'm stressed, I get more stressed.  When I'm constantly deciding whether to research this article or whether or not I should disagree with this person (can we have a reasonable discussion or will it turn into a huge Facebook "fight"?), decision fatigue sets in.

So, in order to learn about a few things in depth instead of constantly researching articles on a myriad of topics to see if they are true; in order to maintain my sanity, to keep my peace of mind, and to get more done, I might not go back to using Facebook in the same way that I used it in the past. I guess time will tell.

So far, I still check messages; check birthdays (though I accidentally miss some); and check notifications that someone has commented on my occasional post. And thank you for that!  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Let's Go out into the Real World

Let's go out into the real world. Let's go out and smile at our neighbors, the people at the store, whoever is in our world, whoever is within our reach. Let's talk one-on-one with our friends by messaging or email, or on the phone, or meet up with local friends over coffee.

Let's build one another up. Let's be supportive of one another's emotional needs. Let's admit our own emotional needs...not by making ourselves vulnerable to the online crowd, who might tear us up like lions in the coliseum, but sharing ourselves with those with whom we feel safe. And by the way, yes it's okay and a good thing to provide someone a place to feel safe. That's what friends do; that's what neighbors do; that's what we do when we see a need and an opportunity come together in the same place...we are there for people, to support them

Can I take the time to step out of my comfort zone to go meet the lady in my community who is still mourning her young adult son? (No, I'm not asking you to do that for me; I'm saying there is actually someone I've met who wanted me to stop by her workplace to say hello, and I haven't gotten around to it.). Can I reach out and pray with someone, as one of my young friends reached out to me the other day? Can I send an email to a friend who is not on Facebook or a letter to someone who is not online?

Can I read a real book, whether non-fiction or fiction, but something with substance and a little longer than a Facebook post?

Can I look up today and see how lovely the sky is? Or are my eyes too glued to the crazy thing the friend of a friend of a friend said on Facebook to notice? Are we letting our opportunities to come make a difference in the world, slip through our fingers?

I'm ready to step out of the online world a little more and into the light of day. Join me? 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

What Greater Thing Can There Be Than This?

We're going to have hard times. No matter who becomes President we're going to have hard times. Every day, for whatever reason, someone will die or someone will get sick or someone will have an accident, or someone will be without a job. No human being on earth can solve all that. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be compassionate; it means we should. But there's another point I want to share today. 

I've always "preached" how we need one another, we need to love one another; but there's something more. We need to know that God loves us. We need to trust in his love! We need to know that we can turn to him in our hearts, no matter what. I woke up with that thought, not that it's a new thought, but suddenly, in the night, I realized that's what's been bothering me so much lately.

Some people perhaps out of fear, some few people possibly even out of a need to manipulate, out of a myriad of different reasons, which I cannot judge, some people are threatening others with the loss of God. Some people are saying or implying, in essence, if you vote this way, or if you don't vote that way, you will separate yourself from God, now and for eternity (for eternity, if you aren't sorry). I don't know a lot about how eternity works, but you cannot separate yourself from God on this earth. He is always there. He is always here loving us. 

Some of my Catholic friends might sputter "but mortal sin". Grave sin, committed with full knowledge and willing consent, still doesn't keep God from loving someone.  Let's not forget about the Good Shepherd. It doesn't keep a person from loving his or her family and friends. It doesn't keep their family and friends from loving them. As a matter of fact, because of those two things, full knowledge and consent, you and I cannot judge anyone – not anyone at all - of actually subjectively committing a mortal sin or "being in mortal sin", because we cannot see into anyone's heart or mind. Only God can do that. And he is so much more loving than we are even capable of. He is so much more loving than we can even imagine.

When hard times come, and they are here for us all at one time or another, God is there. God is here! He loves us. He wants us to love him. We can say to God all day, "I love you", but we need to remember also that "He loves us!" If we don't believe someone loves us, it makes it harder to love them, doesn't it? Think about someone who has been hateful to you. Think of the woman who cut you off on the freeway or the guy behind you who honked loud and hard because you weren't speeding fast enough for him. We don't think they like us very well (at least in that moment), do we? And how do we respond? We usually don't like them very well either, do we?

After being in a cult; after then hearing for years, from some people, that God would smite us, God will punish us, if we make some misstep; after trying to stay close to him and saying, "I love you," I finally started adding another prayer to that: "I love you. I believe in your love for me. Help me to believe more in your love for me." 

God loves us! What greater thing can there ever be than this? Let us, by our love, by our compassion, encourage one another in that belief.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Yes, Black Lives Do Matter

I could give you a long list of individual black people whose lives matter to me. Doctors who have served my family. My math professor of a few years ago. My beloved former coworkers and classmates. Neighbors who have helped me in the snow. The people at my post office who were there for me when my sister died and my son died, and I had to send paperwork back and forth across the country to be my dad's legal guardian. Several priests, including one who is quite large & I have found myself being concerned for him when I have heard that some officer or another was afraid because someone was black and large. Oh, puh- lease!

There was a time in my life when I wasn't awake to the idea that there was a real problem. A couple of times, really. One of those times, in the late 60's, I started reading. Another time, in the 90's, I just gradually became more aware.

So, if you don't see what I see these days, the terrible injustices, I would ask you to read more widely, to meet more diverse people if possible, to consider that maybe, just maybe mistakes, and sins, and criminal injustices are sometimes made on both sides of the law.

If a teacher abused a child, people would be all upset. And teachers did, when I was a child, but what could I or my classmates do? But if other teachers, or parents, or the school board held them responsible...and perhaps they did at some point.

How many bodies of people, how many positions, do we grant impunity to? There should be none.

Personally, I'm not even sure what you and I can do. But I would ask you to get your news and views from more than one source, and to pray with me for a time of greater respect for all people, because we all matter, but right now, today, I'm going to say this: Black lives matter!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Relationships that Cause Shame

Some people grow up feeling shame, whether because of physical abuse or sexual abuse, bullying, emotional neglect, or some other reason. But have you ever thought about this question: Why does one person, who feels shame, feel the need to shame another, while another person, who feels shame, feels no such need? Why does one person, who has struggled, seek to help others, while another person, who has struggled, feels the need to knock others down? 

I know some will say it's a choice. And of course, that's partly true. The one who doesn't choose to shame others or knock others down makes the kinder and wiser choice.

But that doesn't totally answer the question. I still wonder why. Why do we make those choices? I can't just put it all into neat little boxes of "good people" and "bad people".

I don't tend to judge people harshly…which doesn't mean I don't get angry at people for the way they treat myself or others; but I usually stop short of thinking of them as "bad people"…probably because I was sometimes treated badly as a child by other children who I cared about, and I didn't stop caring about them as a result.

When someone treats us badly, it's my guess that it probably doesn't take their own feelings of shame away. I think it would only add to it.

But as much as it hurt me, I can't throw out the good which I remember, too. It's there, all tangled up with the bad. It's confusing.

What I can do, and what I feel I must do – and what it took me years, even decades, to do! – is acknowledge that I was wronged. It wasn't my fault that I was mistreated. It wasn't that I was weak. It was simply wrong. "They" were not "wrong", like a "wrong person" or a "mistake", but neither was I.  

That doesn't mean I didn't ever do anything wrong or didn't ever hurt them too! It's just that some of us have a harder time acknowledging that not everything was about something we did, that we didn't do anything to warrant cruel mistreatment.   

Somewhere, buried deep inside, we must know that our own happiness and well-being is not less important. Secondly, someone else's mistreatment of us cannot - I believe now - bring them greater happiness and well-being.  

But we can allow ourselves to remember the good times or thoughts when they pop up, even while acknowledging the bad times. We can forgive someone for the very real harm they did to us without letting them do it again. 

In some cases, we may still be in touch and set boundaries; but I know there are cases where it isn't safe for someone to be in touch, and other cases where one grows weary of reaching out; but we can say a little pray for them, when we think of them, and wish them well inside our hearts. 

I believe that caring for ourselves – not only physically but emotionally, too - is not selfishness, but the kind of self-love that gives us the capacity to love others, and especially to find those with whom we can have relationships which are "right". In a "right" relationship, we care for one another, not just care in the sense of liking someone, or having fun with them, but also care in the sense of desiring the mutual happiness and well-being of both people.


Friday, July 08, 2016

In the Wake of Recent Tragedies

I was heartbroken yesterday. I am no less so today. I'd like to ask you one thing. Please don't let the media, any politicians, or anyone else make this an "us" vs. "them" thing for you. It isn't.
You might not guess this from my past posts, but someone close to me wears the uniform and carries the gun. I thought about that waking up this morning, and I hadn't heard about Dallas yet. Maybe I was feeling something. Yes, it's not easy being an officer, and we need to see them as human beings and value their lives, and appreciate the dedication of the many who are doing their jobs well. But please understand that doesn't mean we can't make some changes in the system. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't value the lives of those who are senselessly killed, without due process, for minor infractions or sometimes no infraction at all. That doesn't mean we can't call for accountability, as we would in any other profession.
Just for a little perspective, does anyone think that teachers, coaches, and those who lead souls should be allowed to sexually abuse children unchecked? No, we have worked to change systems to control and deal with that…fortunately, to the benefit of all those who are good teachers, coaches, and leaders of souls. In a similar way, it is not that all or most policemen and policewomen are bad people. For heaven's sake, many of them get into it primarily because they want to serve. But if you assume they are all good, all make good judgments all the time, no matter what they do…even if they kill without cause, then would you make the same assumption if it were your child or son or husband who was a victim? Would you feel the same if a teacher abused your child? We need to respect the law but we need to change some of the systems, so that we have better training, better vetting, and more accountability in the profession.
One can be upset about both what happened with the two men who were killed by police in the past few days and what happened in Dallas. That is not mutually exclusive. Sure, perhaps some in the media want to make it us vs. them, like a sporting event, so we will watch and read. But it isn't us vs. them! For one thing, if you go there, you are comparing apples and oranges, a profession and a race. What sense does that even make?
Wanting accountability within a profession doesn't mean someone wants carnage, the very kind of carnage some of us are hoping to change. Why would anyone who is trying to fight for better legislation to stop violence want more violence? Are people even aware of the reasonable means being used to try to bring about change?
What happened in Dallas was a peaceful protest, which was being followed by a moment of silence. Who the snipers were and why they were there, I don't know. I don't know if we will ever really know the motivation. But it is grief upon grief for our nation.
I do want to add that all my teenage and adult life, I've grieved so much whenever I hear people say derogatory things or make derogatory judgments about people based on their race. I'm not saying I'm perfect and that I've never had any kind of prejudiced thought in my life; but I check myself on it. I'm not saying I'm a better person; maybe I was helped by my sister marrying someone of another race, while I was just a young teen. But all I know is it grieves me deeply. I think it must grieve the Father more. If we look at someone and automatically make a judgment about what they might do or think or feel, based on the color of their skin, then what are we saying to their Creator?

Thursday, July 07, 2016

To My White Friends Today

Today as I drove to the store here in Baltimore, as I saw black men walking from the subway or the bus to their jobs, as I always do, I really thought seriously about what it might feel to be them, to be walking, and to never know how that day might go down. Or how about the many who are working professional jobs, driving their cars to work or recreation, not knowing what might happen at a traffic stop?

As I shopped, my heart just kept breaking, feeling the pain that must be in the hearts of my neighbors here, those I shop with and those who serve me at the store, those who put the food on the shelves so I can buy it, the men and women who check my food through when I'm done, the woman who kindly made sure I remembered to remove my card from the silly new chip reader. How do they feel today? Last month? Last year? Every day?

I know how I felt that one day when police came to my door in bullet proof vests with adrenaline oozing into the atmosphere, guns at the ready, asking if my son was home, asking which room he was in, demanding that I step aside so they could enter the room of my sleeping son.

I don't know what anyone might do who is wakened from a sound sleep to a strange situation. I don't know what policemen "on the ready" might do. So in my fear, I did something which could have been very foolish. When the officer told me to step aside, I just stood there. I sometimes wonder how that would have gone down if I had not been a middle-aged white woman? Yes, I think I'm privileged. It's not a choice I've made, and it breaks my heart that, for someone else, it could have gone differently.

I don't even know where the words came from, but I asked, "Are you sure you have the right person?" Somehow, in that moment, the officer released a degree of his fear and readiness, and brought out a flyer to show me.

Next time you think that surely someone "didn't cooperate", first of all, it might not even be true; but even if there may be cases where it appears that way, please, if you would, remember me, standing there between armed officers and the door to my son's bedroom while I was told to move, and I didn't cooperate; I didn't comply. It wasn't wisdom and it wasn't bravery; it was just what I did in the moment without thinking.

It wasn't my son they wanted. After showing me a flyer, they believed me, and they let me be the one to wake my son so they could talk to him to see if he knew anything about the wanted person (he didn't). It was a case of mistaken identity, the right name, but the wrong person at the wrong address. It happens. It wasn't the first time it's ever happened to anyone; that's why we have a name for it. It happens in homes and it happens with cars.

You might have heard me tell this story before, but I tell it today to share the fear and reactions of a mother, a woman who was brought up in the 50's and 60's in a small town in Washington...brought up to think that all police are always our friend, always there to help, and as long as we cooperate, everything will be just fine. Yet, in that moment, I felt their fear and their readiness, and I was very afraid for my son.

I agree with those who say that many policemen just want to do their job. And yes, of course their lives matter. Of course all lives matter. But when we say black lives matter – at least when I say it - it's my way of saying that we need to acknowledge that there is a problem. And we need to work toward improvement without delay: better training and especially more accountability! And we need to be empathetic instead of defensive about the loss of black lives.  

All I'd like to ask from my white friends for today is a little honesty with ourselves and a little empathy. How would we feel if we were that wife and mother, that girlfriend, that sister, father, brother, or friend of someone whose life was threatened or violently ended over a minor infraction or, in some cases, perhaps no infraction at all?  How would we feel if we were part of a group for which this just kept happening again and again and again?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Business and Grief

When my sister died, I had to take over my dad's guardianship (not his care; I live clear across the country, but his legal and financial affairs). It was a lot of work and worry to get it started, and five weeks into the process, my son died. When we returned home from burying my son, I had to immediately continue the complicated and sometimes confusing process to get the permanent order from the court for my dad's affairs. Then I had to periodically report all things financial to the court.
Now I am backing my way back out of that process. Close a bank account (but not yet the primary account, in case any bills come in). Get the death certificates to show certain entities, as I had to do with my sister's passing 4 1/2 years ago. Do the final financial reporting, and so on.
It just feels a little weird to be putting it all in reverse. I was never comfortable with reversals. Also, I'm still in the same place of wondering what to do in what order, and not being able to ask the attorney questions every minute, but sometimes just do it, and perhaps once again I will find out later that I did it incorrectly, and fix it. At least now I know that most things are "fixable".
I'm not sure why I'm sharing all this. I'm not seeking sympathy. I've already received that and I appreciate it. I'm just sharing about a process. As I said yesterday, in the meantime his caregiver family has been taking care of the "junk" in his storage unit for me, which was most of what was there, after we and they looked through it together for items of value or sentimental value. So, they are backing their way out of this process too. I'm so appreciative of all they have done and are still doing.
I'm not sure about the other part of the process...grieving. I'm not sure what that looks like. Maybe I've already done it. Maybe I already did it when my dad had his mentally debilitating stroke, followed by my sister's death, followed by my son's death (and one of my nieces, and two brothers-in-law, and a couple of dear friends...all within about five years).
Maybe my grief came out enough in those moments four years ago when I couldn't track an important envelope, and I cried and told my story to a perfect stranger at a UPS store (who didn't know what to do with my story, poor guy), and when I left an important item on the counter at the post office (I'd already told them my story), and I panicked about the lost item, and when I came back, they looked up with a kind smile and handed it to me. I didn't know they would remember me, here in the big city. Maybe my grief came out enough when I used to cry at Mass every Sunday morning, after my son died.
Maybe I grieved my father (and mother) enough after I moved out of state at the age of 18. Or maybe I grieved enough when I was a teenager, and I didn't like that they had changed (in my eyes), and they didn't like that I had changed (in their eyes).

But maybe also, the good memories help outweigh the sadness, too. I will always remember that my best vacations when my children were young were visiting my dad. Ed and the children and I would go on outings during the day, and when we returned to the house, my dad would have cooked a delicious dinner for us. One time he had also created a wooden Aggravation game board for the kids and had painted golf tees as pegs.

When we moved from Los Angeles, my dad drove down from Washington to bring our house up to code so we could sell it. When we lived in Kentucky, he flew out to see us, even though he wasn't comfortable with flying so far anymore. And we had some deep talks about the past. Those kinds of talks always seemed to make him uncomfortable; and when I got ready to go visit him last time, I wanted to say some things to him. I never did though. I don't think he would have understood. Mostly he understood only the present moment by then. And mostly we couldn't understand his words. But one time, I laughed at something on the TV, and he looked up at me and said clearly, "Oh! It's you!" That's a beautiful memory I cherish.

What I had wanted to tell him, but didn't – I think the time was long past - was: "Dad, you didn't raise me perfectly every minute, but I didn't with my kids either. But you were always willing to listen to me prattle on. You taught me life skills and independence. You were a good father! You did good!  And yes, I know. It's 'you did well'. J "


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Maybe it's Not the Yelling

I was waiting for someone, and I just got to thinking about moms, especially moms going through menopause or moms not getting enough sleep, or any moms, really, who yell at their kids sometimes and feel badly (as I did when my kids were children). And I found an old grocery list in my purse to write on, and I just started writing the following. I've been in the trenches, and I've made a lot of mistakes. I still do. So if there's anything here that makes you feel badly...please, improve if you want to, but know that my purpose here was simply to lift you up. I think most mothers are "telling" the right things, most of the time, even when they are sometimes yelling.  

Maybe it's Not the Yelling

Maybe it's not the yelling.
Maybe it's: What are we telling?

What are our words?
What are our messages?

Are we telling them if they don't hurry up,
We will leave them behind?
(I won't try to keep you safe.)

Are we telling them if they don't comply with us -
every single time - they are bad people?
(I don't respect you.)

Maybe it's not the yelling.
Maybe it's: What are we telling?

Maybe we speak to them softly,
but tell them they should always give in to others.
(Your own needs are not important.)

Maybe we whisper to them, in gentle tones,
not to sit between dad and me next time.
(You are in the way.)

Maybe it's not the yelling?
Maybe it's: What are we telling?

What are our words?
What are our messages?

Are we yelling to say, "Would you hurry up
so we can get to your doctor appointment"?
(Your needs are important.)

Are we yelling to say, "Would you do your chores,
because I'm tired and your help is important"?
(I am glad you are part of this family.)  

Sometimes we need to say we're sorry for yelling,
remind them again that they brighten our day!
But maybe it isn't as much the yelling 

as what we are telling.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr. Day - 2016

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what he stood for and what he accomplished. Let's not forget what still needs to be done. Oh, I know some of my friends don't think anything still needs to be done. Some are even angry. There are things to be angry about, regarding systems and policies, and maybe we don't all agree with what those are. But where we need to be careful about anger is when it becomes directed toward people or groups of people.

There once was someone I was very angry with for over a year or more. I didn't think I hated this person, but I later realized that if my feelings for this person hadn't turned into hate, then I don't know what hate is. I have repented of this, of course; but I'm sharing to say that it was only much later on down the road that I recognized it for what it was. In case you think - because I'm talking about Martin Luther King Day - that this story was about race, it wasn't. The person in question was the same race, economic class, and gender as I am, but my point is that we tend to read about hate and think that it isn't us, that it would never, ever be us. Yet, it's so easy to cross that line and not even be aware of it. 

When I read Martin Luther King Jr. speaking of "love, not hate"…I think his words were revolutionary for our world, and still are. I also think we often don't realize what hate means. We think it's this nebulous thing that doesn't apply to us. Here's the definition from Merriam Webster's online dictionary: "intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury". 

All my life, in all the parts of the country where I have lived, I have heard comments that would seem to bear out that definition, and especially regarding race. I believe there are still systems that need to be improved to protect people from other people's hate, but I also believe that one of the most important things we can each do as a person is to strive to love and to keep letting love overcome and drive hatred from our world. What if we look at people respectfully as individuals? What if we see all people as the same, yet each unique, each struggling with something, each possessing a great treasure of goodness inside, each created by God with enormous potential on earth and the potential to inherit heaven?

If we find ourselves complaining about people of a certain race or religion or nationality, are we looking at them as individuals? Did God - who made each of the snowflakes different - make people of any one race or religion or nationality all the same? Did he make people who deal with any particular circumstance all the same?  Did he make people who espouse any particular view all the same? Or did He make them all different? And doesn't he look at each person whom he lovingly created, and continue to love them, individually, uniquely? If we really stop and think, if we really stop and feel, can we do any less? Can we do any less for Him? 

Saturday, January 02, 2016

My Mom's Thirty Guidelines for Life:

I grew up in the fifties and sixties. I remember watching my mom's hands as she drove. They were always soft. It wasn't because she didn't work but because she always remembered to use lotion, something I couldn't seem to pick up. 

My mom was born to an Irish father who, I was later told, sometimes used his fists to settle a problem, and a Dutch woman who kept an immaculate house and had only an eighth grade education. They grew up in the Midwest with my grandma having to quit school to care for her siblings and feed them, her father, and the farm workers, after her mother died. My grandfather left home at 16 to escape the abuse of his step-father. He worked as a cowboy, a farmer, and later as a professional carpenter. When I knew them, they lived in a darling little house he had built, which was decorated with the fruits of my grandmother's knitting, crocheting, and embroidery hobbies; and they had an extensive garden and orchard.

My mom married my German-English father, whose father had always been a professional carpenter and whose mother had been a teacher and, when I knew my paternal grandmother, she was the leader of the state ladies' auxiliary for the carpenters' union. They lived in town, kept up on current events, and when my parents married, my dad told my mom not to tell his parents that her bookkeeping job was for a brewery.  

My parents worked and scrimped to put my dad through college to become an electronics engineer, and then, all his life, he worked his own business on the side, in the evenings, as well. Though not a professional carpenter as both my grandfathers had been, he could also build. He built a tiny house from scrap lumber for himself and my mom while he was in college. I once asked him if my mom ever complained that they didn't have indoor plumbing and he said no. Later, he built a combination playhouse and tool shed, a desk and, with a co-owner family, an addition to our little beach cabin. I like to jokingly say that I grew up with an outhouse and a hand pump, but of course, that was only on weekends and only for a few years until they installed indoor plumbing.

Someone used to speak of my maternal grandmother in a disparaging way (behind her back, of course). I have no recollection who it was who said it, but it was pointed out that she said 'ain't', ate her peas off her knife, and didn't have a high school education. I never saw it that way. But when I look back, I even see the opposite. I recall a picture of my mom and dad roller skating before they got married, and my mom looked very classy. She must have gotten her classy start somewhere. 

I've always remembered my mom saying that this or that was "not classy". But recently, I had a chance encounter with someone who struck me as possibly being upper class (whatever that is, right?), and for some reason, she made me think of my mom. Then I remembered, too, one time - years ago - that I had the privilege of flying business elite because my daughter was working for an airline, I was flying stand-by, and they had the space. I met a family who struck me as the epitome of upper class...the kind of classiness that looks nice, well groomed, but not necessarily expensively, and who smiles and treats everyone with respect. Remembering that, last night, I started recalling some of the things my mom taught me, and then I started writing them down, and then the list got longer and longer. 

This may be some-50's and 60's, some simply common sense, and some just my mom. But here are thirty rules of life that I was taught by a woman who came from uneducated parents who someone had the gall to make fun of, but who probably had more "class" than the person who said it. Boiling down what my mom taught me into a sentence, I would say that being "classy", as my mom taught it, has little to do with either formal education or money. I can't say I practice all of this, all of the time, and I'm sure you all could make similar lists. But I've simply enjoyed this walk down memory lane and writing a little tribute to a woman whom I didn't fully appreciate for too many years. 

My Mom's Thirty Guidelines for Life:

Dress appropriately for the occasion; 
dress up a little to go downtown
Take a bath and dress up a bit to go to the doctor
Dress according to custom, for example, white shoes in summer, black shoes in winter, and the purse should match
Buy new clothing for the beginning of school and for going on vacation

It's okay to wear hand-me-downs, as long as they are clean and neat
If you let a hem down and there's a line, you can cover it by adding rick-rack where the line is
It's okay to make your own clothes; it's probably better quality than store-bought
Always sew a missing button or a hem right away, before you wear the item again
Always be clean, with hair and clothing neatly groomed; it isn't classy not to be well groomed

Treat people the way you would want to be treated; it isn't classy to treat people badly
Treat everyone, without exception, with respect
Never stare or comment on someone's appearance
Never make fun of anyone
Say thank you to the cashier, to your hostess when you visit, and to the bus driver
Say excuse me when you walk in front of someone
Write thank you notes

Don't talk about bathroom functions, illness, or underwear in public
Always cover your mouth when you sneeze, cough, or yawn
Don't burp out loud or yawn out loud
Chew gum with your mouth closed and never blow bubbles in public
Don't ask nosy or overly personal questions
Let the people you live with know where you are going and when you will be home

Keep a neat and clean bedroom, bathroom, and house
You can make delicious food without spending a lot of money
You don't have to buy the most expensive item, but you shouldn't necessarily buy the cheapest item
Homemade gifts are as good as, or better than, store-bought gifts

Work hard
No one is going to do everything for you
Working together with relatives on projects is expected, and it's fun too
Use your talents